Community Development Funds – Sudan

Another Consultant and myself ‘passing’So I’m no expert in Community Development Funds (CDFs) but in my last mission to Sudan I saw a model which seemed refreshing. Sudan’s CDF is a Multi-Donor Trust Fund funded, World Bank (WB) administrated project. And while there are things that may be wrong with it. Here are some things that could be right.

CDFs and Social Funds are the WBs way of administering funds to community driven projects. See WB case studies in Indonesia and Yemen. Resources are given to the community to help them manage and execute a project. In my mind and from what I’ve heard there are several issues surrounding CDFs.

  1. CDFs are a step up from top down development but only barely, because you can have a case where no coordinated development agenda is being pushed (except by what funders choose to fund) when one simply ’empowers’ or transfers capacity local citizens. In other words communities make mistakes too. Also, why should each community work in isolation? It’s as if giving people their own projects is a good in itself.
  2. If 1 is true where is the link between citizen and state in promoting development agendas?
  3. Also, who is helping the state learn how to support citizens? (For why this is important see Ann-Marie Goetz and Robert Jenkins’ work on new forms of accountability. Basically, citizens can’t be solely responsible for their own service administration. A farmer with 6 kids has to farm no matter how much he enjoys social action, door to door sensitization and team meetings. At some point social institutions must take on these new roles.)
  4. Finally, what about the CDFs themselves? They can be easily become parallel institutions to the state as they (instead of the state) engage, respond to and support local citizens.

Wold Bank staff and CDF staff in Khartoum have come up with an approach which is as follows. (Apparently it was used somewhere in the Middle East)

  • CDF begins to create a competency in social services by working with villages on health, water and education projects.
  • A deadline is set to transfer CDF competencies to local government.
  • After which the CDF will take on new competencies such as micro finance, small business support and lending institutions. Then CDF will transfer those competencies over to local government.
  • The cycle will repeat as necessary

Cute huh? I know this seems obvious but I don’t think this was always the case. Other CDFs kept their core competencies and either took on new competencies due to demand or struggled to pass on responsibility (not the capacity to take on responsibility) to local government.

The trick here – we hope – will be the deadline. CDF will essentially be killing off their health, water and education support. Local demand for their services will be passed on to the locality which can either ignore the demand or take the help CDF has to offer on how to best to support these services while leveraging the community.

Another trick will be the capacity transfer to local government. This will be different because it’s tailored towards existing responsibilities of the state. I know this doesn’t sound unique but it’s the difference between eating your vegetables and taking medicine for a cold you already suffer from.

At the end of the day only time will tell if this model will work in Northern Sudan. We hope, all people deserve something good to happen once in a while.

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